Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sam Ash Open Mic

I checked out the Sam Ash open mic last night.  It was pretty cool.  As with most open mics, the only people there were the performers and a couple friends of theirs.  I appeared to be the only one who just showed up to listen in general.  Some talented folks were playing, and they got some random musical collaboration whenever someone would try out a drumset or keyboard in the middle of their song, which added a nice Dadaesque spice to the open mic.  I likely will attend the next one on Wednesday, August 6th at 7 p.m. and play some of my new songs.  I believe that I will fit right in with the other middle-aged dudes playing Bob Dylan songs (except I won't be playing any Dylan songs).  There were no female performers, which I found odd, but guitar geekery is primarily a male bastion anyway, so it's probably not surprising (one guy even played "Stairway To Heaven" to check his tuning).  Each performer gets a $10 gift card apparently, so that's a good deal.  I can use it to buy a Bob Dylan songbook and then return to play Dylan songs, so I can fit in even better.  The Sam Ash I'll be playing is located at 5700 Mayfield Road in Lyndhurst, Ohio USA.  If you get there by 6, then you can hit the Entenmann's outlet a couple of doors down in the strip plaza and get some cheap bread and donuts.  There's also a Skyline Chili in the plaza, which might be the most north of Cincinnati that I've ever seen one of those.  So, if you're really bored, then feel free to come out and stock up on going stale raisin bread, chow down on chili on your spaghetti, and hear some Dylan and Fright!  It's free (though someone might try to sell you a bass or something). 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Third Monster Of Party Beach Trailer!

The third trailer from Monster Of Party Beach is out!  This one includes a couple moments with me in my role as a cop.  I spoke with director Mark Justice yesterday and he said that he's trying for an August release, but even if that goal doesn't get met and the film doesn't get out until the fall, that would be just fine since it's a horror movie parody and that would be perfect for the Halloween season.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Purslane: The Driveway Dinner

For the last week or so, I've been eating purslane, a little plant that seems to love growing in my driveway and patio.  I used to pluck it out, but then I read somewhere that purslane was edible and nutritious, so I decided to give it a try.  So far, I've had it with couscous, with rice, and in a burrito.  It's crunchy and yummy.  I've been eating the leaves and stems, so pretty much the whole plant, except for the roots.  Being not used to eating plants that sprout up in my driveway, I proceeded cautiously, but I've gotten pretty good at identifying it from a couple lookalikes who are poisonous (here's a good article for identification).  I didn't even have to grow this plant from seed nor plant it, so that's the best kind of gardening!  My next experiment will be to see if it can replace spinach in a sandwich.  If it could, then that would be great, as my first spinach crop is all gone and the second one won't be ready until late in the summer.  Like blackberries, purslane is another good reason not to use lawn chemicals.

Monday, July 28, 2014

La Bibliotheque Fantastique

I recently traded zines with Antoine Lefebvre, a zine publisher and artist from Paris, France.  It had been some time since I traded internationally, and I was a bit shellshocked by the rise in international postage prices.  Yikes!  It's a good thing that Antoine also copublishes his work electronically at La Bibliotheque Fantastique, so that you can check out the great assortment of zines and other publications, including classic dada publications, without having to pay postage.  Print is still cooler, but it's certainly not cheaper!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stepping Out Again

I stopped writing songs in 2005. I had a nice 15-year-long run, but it seemed time to stop. With marriage and a full-time job, I didn't have time to be in a band anymore, so there didn't seem to be a need to write any new songs, especially with so many old ones to pick from when I felt like playing music by myself. In addition, most of my little time available for creative activities was taken up by writing. I did a lot of literary readings at that time, so it still kind of felt as if I were playing out in bands, except I didn't have to lug heavy amplifiers around town (I am reminded of something David Thomas of Pere Ubu said, something to the effect that rock and roll mostly involved moving big black boxes from one side of town to the other), which was pleasant.

However, the muses apparently weren't going to be satisfied with poems and stories; they wanted songs, so, in 2012, music started pouring out again. Even though I still took care of my responsibilities, I made a deliberate effort to reserve time for the activities that I most enjoyed such as writing and playing music, even if I only got to playing guitar once a week or so.  Apparently, the secret to happiness is doing more of the things that make one happy, so I followed that mantra.  I also made a vow to play out again, but only when I had a set of eight new songs, one cover, and one old song. Well, with "Soldier Through" being the eighth new song, it appears I will have to keep my vow (the cover is "Pack Of Lies" by Fatima Mansions and the old song is "Why Honey Sings"), so I'm thinking about either hitting an open mic or two or getting a bass player and drummer to flesh out the songs, or maybe even both. If anybody has suggestions for either one of those approaches, then please get in touch. I've been out of the Cleveland, Ohio USA music scene for long enough that I will basically have to start all over, which I'm kind of looking forward to.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Song: "Soldier Through"

I wrote this song for anyone going through a rough patch.  I was aiming for the feel of a Stooges b-side.  The static on the recording is by design, so there is nothing wrong with your speakers or your broadband connection.  It popped up as an Audacity error, so I decided to make use of it.  Percussion this time is provided by a pair of old boots.  The everpopular mouthbass provides the bassline, such as it is.  I found a cool MIDI synth that I intended to conjure bass sounds out of, but it didn't play well with Audacity.  Maybe next time I can get it to work.  You can check out the MP3 here.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

I got hired, and I got shit on.
I got fired, and I got spit on.
I got sick, and no one cared.
I threw up, and everyone just stared.

But I'm going to soldier . . . I'm going to soldier through,
so I can find my way . . . find my way through.

It was my turn, and I got ignored.
I told my story, and everyone looked bored.
So now it's one foot in front of the other.
I will not cry out for my mother.

If I'm in Hell, I'm going to keep going.
That's the only way out, and that's the only thing worth knowing.
Some people say that I should give up,
but marching on is the only way to sip from the victory cup.

Written July 2014
Recorded July 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Wred's Reading: Bridge Of Sighs by Richard Russo

I was in Chicago this April for the national Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference.  As part of the registration material, I received a free book about movies made in Berlin.  It looked like a very nice book, but I had no great interest in Berlin's film legacy and I had a six-month stack of books back home waiting to be read, so I wasn't too thrilled to get it.  Still, it was free; how could I complain?  I noticed that some of my fellow conferencegoers also felt the way I did about the book as they had dumped their copies of the book on the freebie table, but if everyone at the conference had it already, then who was going to pick it up there? I wanted my copy to find a better fate than just getting swept in the trash after the conference.

Fortunately, I saw in The Chicago Reader that they were holding a book swap at The Old Town School Of Folk Music one evening when I was in town, so I popped in and left the Berlin book there.  I hope that it found a good home.  Given all the intellectuals (or at least people wearing glasses) at the event, I figured that someone who dug movies and Berlin would be there and dig it.

What a cool event the book swap was!  A little folk band was playing, and people were on the free books like crows on fresh roadkill.  Some people appeared to be attempting to achieve personal bests in weightlifting given how many books they were taking, but I just wanted to swap my little Berlin book for one that I was more interested in reading.

I picked Bridge Of Sighs, a novel by Richard Russo.  I had read some of Russo's other novels such as Empire Falls, Mohawk, and Straight Man and enjoyed all of them, so I figured it was a good bet.  I've just started it now.  I think I will especially enjoy the portions set in Venice, Italy since I would like to go there next year.

And if you do the math, now I only have a three-month stack of books!  So my summer reading is actually my spring reading, but I am getting caught up.

I'm sure that you are just as excited as I am.

Apparently, the book swap is held annually, so if you're in Chicago next April and you like books, then maybe keep an eye out for it.

If I'm there and I'm caught up on my reading, look for me to be one of the weightlifter people. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Films Of Edward Burns

I was delighted to stumble across The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, a new film by Edward Burns, at the library.  Burns's films are never great, but they're almost always good (a tendency towards schmaltz in the narrative and a lack of cinematic style tends to keep a lid on how good his films get), which is sort of amazing since he seems to film his movies on the Hollywood equivalent of a fifty-cent budget.  The films are typically set in New York City and feature Irish-American characters.  They tend towards slice-of-life stories.  His strength is definitely characterization (you don't want to think too much about the plots or you will usually like his movies less).  The Christmas movie is in line with his previous work.  It's about a large Irish-American family whose estranged father is dying of cancer and wants to spend one last Christmas with the family he abandoned decades earlier.  Since there are about a dozen family members seemingly, there are about a dozen storylines underneath that main story.  Some viewers may not like that, but I enjoyed the weaving of the storylines and how the characters interacted with one another.  For a fairly realistic film, I didn't like the ending, which I didn't find very realistic, but it's a Christmas movie, so it would probably be too much a violation of the genre to have anything other than a happy ending (as happy as an ending can get anyway when one of the characters is dying).  Given Burns's tendency towards schmaltz, such an ending was almost inevitable in any case.  I probably will forget this film by next Christmas, but I enjoyed watching it, and I will likely again be delighted to encounter another film by Burns.  He's no Martin Scorsese, but, unlike Woody Allen and Spike Lee (to mention a few New York-centered filmmakers), who produced quality films early in their careers and then the law of diminishing returns kicked in (I won't watch Allen films anymore, and I think I'm at that point with Lee as I have no interest in seeing his remake of Oldboy), Burns's work remains remarkably consistent.  More people should check out his work.  Maybe then, he'd get a seventy-five cent budget for the next film and be able to create a great one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Say No To Lawn Chemicals; Say Yes To Blackberries

So, I'll be sitting on my futon in the living room by the big window doing a spot of morning reading when a truck filled with chemicals pulls up outside, and a dude in a hazmat suit gets out and sprays my neighbors' yard with only God knows what.

That's definitely a buzzkill to the easy early morning isn't life grand vibe.

Either my neighbors really hate dandelions (to which I will quote William Niering, "There is nothing wrong with dandelions; there is something wrong with people.") or they fell for one of the many direct mail solicitations that I get as well which attempt to make people feel neurotic about their lawns.  I'm pretty live as let live, but their paying to put potentially health-damaging chemicals on the lawn makes me think I live near some stupid people (on top of that, they seem to run an under the table daycare service there as well--let's play on the lawn and get cancer, kids!).  I just hope none of that crap gets over on my property or gets the other neighbor's cat, who loves to roam, sick.

Meanwhile, across the street in my yard is a lawn chemical company's worst nightmare.  Not only do I not pay them anything, I let just about anything grow (I draw the line at poison ivy, Canadian thistle--I like Canadians but these ones should be deported--and a few other plants) in the lawn, and I don't care how it looks, thereby puncturing the local conformity in yard appearance that they use to pressure people with (furthermore, I only mow the thing as often as I do because the city would fine me if I didn't, and I use a reel mower--no gasoline or electricity needed).  As a result, I get plants such as blackberries sprouting up, blackberries that have just started ripening (they are the black ones in the picture--the net is there to slow down the birds from eating all the fruit before I can get to it; by the way, if any bird is reading this, please eat the other berries that grow in the yard and not the ones that humans can consume, and if you get caught in the net, don't peck at me when I fish you out to free you) and blackberries that I will be eating as part of my lunch today and for probably about the next month.  But this isn't about how great I am (though I am pretty great, only my modesty keeps me from telling you more about that--ha!), this post is about how great blackberries in the yard are.

I'll be blunt.  People, don't be stupid.  Stop paying people to spray potentially-hazardous stuff on your lawn if you are doing it, and don't start doing so if you aren't, and maybe you too will someday be able to walk out in the lawn and chow down on delicious fruit, delicious fruit that you didn't even plant, delicious fruit that just showed up to say, "Thank you for not being the type of idiot who is obsessed with a narrow conception of nature.  Eat me for free."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Song: "Smooth Jazz Riot"

I wrote this song from the perspective of a frustrated white collar worker.  Imagine an administrative assistant or accountant who likes to listen to smooth jazz in the office and everyone else makes fun of her or him for doing so.  It's sort of "Pirate Jenny" set in a suburban office park.  It's certainly far from autobiographical; if I had to pick a least favorite type of music, then smooth jazz might be it.  You can check out the MP3 here.  I successfully resisted the tempting Audacity effects this time except for the sexy echo, whom I just couldn't say no to.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

Hey, black metaller,
you think you're scary
because you worship Satan,
but I'll show you scary; I worship Kenny G.
Hey, hip-hopper,
you think you're tough
'cause you're in a gang,
but I'll show you tough; I work forty hours a week.

I'm listening for the smooth jazz riot.

Hey, punk rocker,
you think you're a rebel
because you have a lot of tattoos,
but I'll show you rebellion:  I don't have any tattoos.
Hey, honky-tonker,
you say you like to party
because you drink a lot of alcohol,
but I'll show you a party, and I don't need any alcohol.

We're tired of being ridiculed
for liking pleasant music,
doing our jobs, and being polite.
That makes us angry, so very angry that we want to riot.
Imagine the streets filed with smooth jazz fans.
Imagine if we didn't show up for work.
I apologize for being crude,
but imagine just how fucked you'd be.

Hey, classical music snob,
you think you have good taste
because you go to the big symphony hall,
but I'll show you good taste that you can whistle along with in the elevator.
Hey, teeny bopper,
you think you're so hot
because you like what's popular,
but I'll show you that being cool is better, and it has nothing to do with how many people like something.

Written July 2014
Recorded July 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Best Garage Sale Ever!

As a child, I sold at flea markets, which meant I shopped at garage sales to buy stuff to sell at flea markets.  Since one of my favorite things as a child was comic books, I always dreamed of finding some comics at a garage sale.  When I did, it was always a great day, and I often kept them instead of selling them.  Though my appetite for comics is not quite the same as when I was ten years old, I still was delighted last year to attend Tony Isabella's garage sale since it pretty much was a garage sale of nothing but comics.  This year, Tony is making his wonderful garage sale even better by planning to host a comics convention in his driveway after his garage sale on July 26th.  I doubt I'll make it, but if you are anywhere near Medina, Ohio USA and like comics, then you should.  Not only will you likely get to chat with the creator of a Justice League member (Black Lightning), but I bet you'll find some great deals!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic The Prescriptive Grammarian

A few years back, I saw "Weird Al" Yankovic in concert.  It was great fun.  He still makes records as well.  His latest effort features a song called "Word Crimes", which has a very funny video (it should be embedded below).  In it, he ridicules various language usages which are regarded as erroneous by those who like to police the language, who will politely be called here prescriptive grammarians (since they like to prescribe how people should use language--they are often contrasted against linguists who tend to be more often descriptive grammarians and merely describing how people use language) and not, as I saw one commentator on the video call them, Grammar Nazis.  Admittedly, most people, including myself, have strong feelings about language and its use, but I tend to fall on the more permissive side of the debate.  For example, if I ask you how you are and you say "good", I won't tsk tsk you because you didn't say "well".  As long as the meaning has been understood by both parties, clearly the language usage was successful.  Other people, particularly other English teachers, are not so permissive and seem to derive much satisfaction from using language in a particular manner and correcting that of others whose usage is found wanting.  I suspect, like Thorstein Veblen argues, that this sort of language policing is related to social class issues and conspicuous consumption (if you haven't read The Theory Of The Leisure Class, then I recommend that you do so if you get an opportunity; for a century-old book, it still explains a lot about American life today).  Most prescriptive grammarians decry such an accusation of snobbery; they usually claim they instead are defending standards of clear communication (ask them who set the standards then and their argument usually collapses, though they seldom will admit it).  At least, "Weird Al" can hide his prescriptive grammarianness behind the mask of art; when I complain about someone not knowing the difference between "it's" and "its", I'm just being a jerk.  I am with him on the "I could care less" issues and a few others.  More people should think about language.*

*Note to prescriptive grammarians.  Punctuation marks such as commas and periods are located outside the quotation marks because I prefer the British standard on this convention and not because I don't know what I'm doing.  You will just have to focus on my other linguistic deficiencies instead.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Commas And Toos

So I was writing away and noticed that I had thrown a comma in front of "too" in a sentence such as "I'm working on him, too."  I looked at it and threw the comma out.  It didn't make any sense.  There was no pause between "him" and "too", so, rhetorically, the comma wasn't needed (in this case--if one wanted to indicate a pause, then a comma makes a great choice here), and, grammatically, it wasn't doing anything.  In terms of meaning, the sentence read just as clearly without the comma.  I certainly wouldn't have put in a comma if the sentence read "I'm working on him also" or "I'm working on him as well", so why should it have a comma for "too"?  So I went back in the manuscript and made sure to yank all the commas out that I had placed in front of the "too"s where I didn't want to indicate a pause.  I must have picked this up from reading and unconsciously noticed that a lot of other writers were chucking commas in front of "too"s, so I started doing it, uh, too.  I don't know why those writers were doing that, but often punctuation usage just plays follow the leader even if the trend doesn't make any sense.  No doubt that if a copyeditor gets hold of the manuscript, then the too commas will pop back up, and it will be a battle to get them removed, but, in the meantime, they are out.

I hope other writers dump the commas there, too . . . er . . . there too. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back To GEMM

A few years ago, I sold on GEMM, a site for record collectors.  I don't even remember if I ever even sold anything, but, given eBay's decline, I thought I would try again, so I reopened my account and put up an oddball record for sale.  It's a copy of a Circle Jerks cd.  It's supposed to have their first two albums on it, but it's a mispressing, so it only has the first album on it, which is a great album but a bit disappointing if you expected both (I experienced this myself and ended up going back to the store to return it, whereupon a compromise was arranged and I got half my money back or something).  Some collectors like oddball stuff such as this, so we'll see if anyone wants this particular sound recording folly.  If not, it's probably off to Half Price Books or somewhere, and some poor unsuspecting soul might buy it expecting both albums to be on it.

Maybe I should just throw it away.

Nah, Group Sex is a great record.  That would be a waste.

Friday, July 11, 2014

More Fun With Direct Mail!

Yes, that may be the worst blog post title of all time, but it's accurate.  I keep getting goofy fundraising appeals in the mail, so I feel compelled to share their goofiness with you.  The latest is a letter begging money for The Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice.  The letter is eight pages long, with each page on a different sheet of paper.  Maybe the explanation is as simple as the fact that this foundation has never heard of doublesided printing (i.e., using both sides of a sheet of paper), but I'm interpreting it as they already have so much money to waste that they use twice the paper they need and pay extra postage (for the extra weight of the extra paper), so they probably don't need my money (they were asking for a thousand--they must have me confused with Mitt Romney or some other rich guy, but if I gave at least $250 they'd send me a special thank you; uh, no thanks).  They did manage to use both sides of a sheet of paper for some extra material that they sent with the letter, so I'm guessing they know how to do doublesided printing and just like wasting money.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Yip!*: Supershow!

I've attended two Supershows and had a good time at both. It's a comedy/variety show that features various comedians and other acts, all for $5 at a bowling alley in Lakewood, Ohio USA. It's a good deal. I usually find myself laughing quite a bit.  The latest version had Mike Polk Jr., ballerinas, a rap metal group, and more.  It's held the second Wednesday of every month.  I don't know if I can make the next one, but if I don't, I know that I'll be missing a good time.  It's good to see the local Cleveland entertainment scene blossoming.

*Yips are good things!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Song: "I Love The Library"

I wrote this song from the point of view of one of those cranky old men who like to hang out at the public library because they have no better place to go (and, really, what place could be cooler than a great library anyway?).  The song has some artistic license, as I doubt many old men listen to The Smiths (maybe someday--give it a few years).  You can check out the MP3 here.  I went a little crazy on the Audacity effects this time.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

I'm going downtown to the library.
I'm going to check out a book and find out what's wrong with me.
Maybe other people just don't pay attention to politics,
and that's why they're not bothered that we're led by cunts and pricks.

I love the library, lots of books to read and they're all free.

Well, tax dollars paid for them so they're not quite free,
but at least they're paying for something other than bombing peasants overseas.
I also like that I don't have to buy something to go pee.
Yes, there are many reasons to love the library.

The other day at the Friends of the Library booksale,
I bought a Smiths cassette for ten cents.
I gave the clerk a nickel and five pennies.
It was Rank, my favorite 'cause they rock on it,
yet another reason for me to love the library.

There's a retarded guy there who's always yelling at me.
Yes, you can meet many strange people at the library.
But I find reading relaxing.  It calms me,
unless I read the newspaper and see what the idiots are doing with my tax money.

Written July 2014
Recorded  July 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fundraising Cliches Or Idioms?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the use of seemingly fake surveys in direct mail fundraising appeals.

Yes, I'm sure most of you find this just as fascinating as I do--ha!

In any case, I received another fake survey, this time from the Democratic Party.  What struck me more than the presumably fake survey this time was the massive amount of cliches used in the accompanying letter.  Democrats were going to "pull out all the stops" to have a "big finish" to keep the country on "the path forward" because it has been "paying the price" due to Republican "roadblocks".

And those were just the first few paragraphs.  Later cliches included "all-out effort", "work around the clock", "stand their ground", "deep-pocketed", "foundations to victory" (complete with "pillars"), and "[t]ime is slipping by".  There were more, but I will spare you.

A cliche is usually defined as a metaphorical expression that has worn out its novelty and now represents stale thinking.  It was one of the things that George Orwell complained about in his great essay "Politics and the English Language", though he called them "dying metaphors".  If you think about it, what does "pulling out all the stops" mean?  Do the Democrats have a magic pipe organ that they're cranking up to scare Republicans away?  What is a "big finish" anyway?  Is there a scale one can measure out what a big finish is from a small finish?  What path is the country on exactly?  Not only does land not move (aside from earthquakes or whatnot), but even if the writer of the letter (supposedly Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz) was imagining the people of the country instead of the actual land, when were we all on the same path? There are millions of us; that little path is going to get quite crowded.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  This stale language is representative of stale thinking, and, therefore, unlikely to get my financial support.

However, I bet this stuff works for others.  Fundraising folks generally know what they're doing, and if they pile on the cliches, then maybe they have found that some Democrats "open up their wallets".  Cliches do allow people to follow meaning very quickly.  One could even argue that one person's cliche is another's idiom, and that different people will consider some expressions not to be worn out.  In this last paragraph, I used both "pile on" and "worn out"; they could be considered cliches by some, since they involve a figurative use of language and have been used so long that no one really thinks of their metaphorical aspects anymore.  Language is always tricky.

Still, I think the Dems need to hire some better writers.  Perhaps they need to "think outside the box", to use a phrase I personally detest (anyone who says that clearly isn't thinking out of the box yet), so that they can "clean the clock" (perhaps the same one that they were working around in the letter) of the Republicans in the midterm elections.  Orwell was right decades ago when he wrote, "Political language--and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase--some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse--into the dustbin, where it belongs."

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Latest Thirsty Bear & Hungry Snake Strip!

I was going to save this for submission to The Funny Times, but they usually like several cartoons to sort through at a time, and at the rate I produce these, they might be out of business before I have enough to be worth submitting, so you get to enjoy it now here.  Somehow I don't see them going for it anyway since it doesn't make fun of Republicans.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Yip!*: Jello Biafra Live

I was a big Dead Kennedys fan in high school, but I never got a chance to see the band because they broke up before I started regularly going to concerts.  I had seen their former lead singer and mastermind Jello Biafra do spoken word a couple of times over the years, and that was great, but I had never seen him in concert with a band, so when I saw he was coming to Cleveland, Ohio USA this week, I decided to check it out.

He was great.  He's older now, but he has more energy than some teenagers I know.  His band, The Guantanamo School Of Medicine, was terrific; he made some right-on political statements; and if the new songs weren't quite as good as the DK classics, then he more than made up for it by playing a few of those classics.  My favorite moment of the night though might have been this cover of "Sonic Reducer" just for Cleveland (for some reason, Jello doesn't know it's a Rocket From The Tombs song, as he said something to the effect that he loves Pere Ubu and Rocket From The Tombs, but this Dead Boys classic was his favorite song from Cleveland--what really happened was that co-songwriter Cheetah Chrome took this song with him when he left RFTT to the Dead Boys; since the two best Dead Boys songs, "Reducer" and "Ain't It Fun" were both at least co-written by RFTT members David Thomas and Peter Laughner respectively, Chrome should have kept writing with them as those were good songwriting pairings).  Openers Negative Approach helped out Jello's band on this version, and I'm glad that someone caught it on video, so you can hear and see it for yourself.

It's the next best thing to being there live! 

*Yips are good things!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Garage Sale Time!

I used to be a packrat, but, over the last decade or so, I get rid of things regularly now.  The stuff is pretty cool, but I just have enough stuff.  I'm selling some of it on eBay now (the link goes to my current listings).  Unfortunately, eBay is no longer what it once was, so things don't sell on there as easily.  First of all, eBay has a default search mechanism called "best match" which favors commercial sellers and not a garage saler like myself, so my stuff usually ends up at the bottom of the search listings, which means a lot of potential buyers never even see it. Second of all, eBay's fees have gotten so expensive over the years that it's really not worth my time to have an auction for something unless I can get ten bucks or so for it, so bargains are harder to find for sellers as well.  All of that hurts eBay as well in that they lose potential fees on the sales I don't make, but I guess they make enough money as is that they don't care.  Then there was the hack a couple of months ago.  That probably scared some buyers away.  In any case, eBay's getting so bad, I may not even sell on it anymore.  I might even sell some of this stuff on another site or even here if it doesn't sell on eBay.  There definitely is an opening for an alternative auction site.  None have seemed to catch on yet, but if someone could just create an equivalent to eBay circa 2002, then I'd give it a shot.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Higher Education Meets The Hello Nurse

A few years ago, I watched a documentary by Adam Curtis.  In it, he told the story of the Hello Nurse.  The Hello Nurse was created by hospital administrators in Britain to meet complaints by politicians and the public that patients waited too long to be seen by health professionals.  What happened was that when a patient entered a waiting room, a nurse greeted her or him by saying "hello".  This was counted by the hospital administrators as a patient being seen, so that statistically the waittimes for patients to be treated would look very short.

Of course, in reality, things were worse.  Not only were the real waittimes as long as before, but now a nurse who could have been treating patients was basically off the floor and charged with being the hospital equivalent of a Wal-Mart greeter.  But, on paper, it looked great, and the politicians were able to claim to the public that the waittime problem had been solved.

I was reminded of the "Hello Nurse" story when I read a recent news article about Governor Kasich of Ohio USA signing a higher education funding bill that ties funding to graduation rates for public colleges.  Though the goal of the bill seems admirable in that it seeks to raise graduation rates and therefore improve the education and skills base of Ohio, I suspect that the bill will lead to worse education.  Just as the hospital administrators who created the Hello Nurse to "solve" a problem that the politicians charged them with solving, probably without those same politicians giving them more financial resources to actually solve the problem, college administrators will likely use every Hello Nurse trick in the book to raise graduation rates.  These likely will include the aggressive weeding out through admission standards of potential students perceived as unlikely to make it to graduation (those who would have to take remedial courses and whatnot) and pressuring instructors to water down the difficulty of courses so that more students who are admitted can graduate.  Then when graduation rates rise, the college administrators and the politicians can claim victory.

But it will be a Hello Nurse sort of victory.  Many potential students won't be given a chance, graduates will have learned less, a college degree will have less value, and it will likely do nothing to actually rein in the expense of college.  So Ohio will be less better off in reality, but on paper we'll look great with all the diplomas flying out of the state diploma mills.

Perhaps we'll even end up with a Hello Professor or two.